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For Immediate Press Release
June 27, 2011
Media Contact: Jennifer Quigley at (202) 234 8022

See the letter to Secretary Geithner here

See the list of cronies here

(Washington, DC) The U. S. Campaign for Burma (USCB), a Washington, DC-based human rights organization campaigning to end crimes against humanity and the culture of impunity in the Southeast Asian country of Burma, today strongly urged U.S. Secretary of Treasury Timothy Geithner to take action on cronies who are providing economic and political support for the ruling regime in Burma, as authorized by the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008.

The Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act of 2008 authorized the U.S. government to impose targeted financial sanctions on former and present leaders and officials of Burma’s ruling regime, current or former officials of the security services and judicial institutions of the regime, and any other Burmese persons, who provide substantial economic and political support for the regime, as well as their family members. The Department of Treasury has added names and entities of the Burmese persons under targeted sanctions in its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. However, the cronies targeted by the Department of Treasury are much fewer in number than those who are sanctioned by the governments of Australia and the European Union. Many of the regime’s business cronies are still exempt from targeted U.S. financial sanctions.

It has now been more than 100 days since Burma’s ruling regime began its pretense at democracy and shed the moniker the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). Yet nothing has changed, nearly 2,000 political prisoners remain behind bars, human rights abuses continue unabated, attacks against ethnic resistance groups persist and no steps have been taken towards creating a tri-partite dialogue for national reconciliation with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratic opposition and ethnic nationalities. Burma’s military regime undertook this exercise to redesign its image in an attempt to convince countries to lift sanctions without giving up any power.

In the letter sent to Secretary Geithner today by email, mail and fax, Aung Din, Executive Director of the USCB said “It is time the United States send a clear message that the pretense of democracy is no democracy at all. It is imperative that the United States employ the levers of pressure at its disposal and pursue increased targeted financial and banking sanctions.”

While millions of people in Burma are struggling hard to make ends meet on a daily basis, fighting to keep above the bare minimum, there has been an emergence of a new class in Burma comprised of a group of super millionaires who are all family members and business associates of the generals in power. They control the country’s domestic and international trade. They are allowed to run banks, financial institutions and business corporations, from construction to mining, from garment factories to plantations, from shopping centers to media outlets. They are allowed to exploit natural resources. They receive government contracts for lucrative projects without bidding. Family members of the generals serve on their boards with huge salaries and attractive remuneration. They also act as arms dealers to help the regime acquire modern weapons, such as fighter jets, bombers, tanks, helicopters, missiles, from foreign countries to strengthen its oppressive machine. They are also major suppliers of luxury items, such as expensive cars, gold bars, upscale condominiums, diamonds, hard currencies, and overseas vacations to the generals.

Some crony businesspersons are recruited to become leaders of the regime’s official political party, the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) and Members of Parliament. They have become more powerful than local authorities and some of them even own private militias, soccer fields, and professional soccer clubs with foreign professional soccer players. Aung Din said “millions of people of Burma are being abused not only by the authorities, but also by the business cronies who now constitute the second most powerful class in Burma just under the ruling regime.”

With the letter, USCB submitted a partial list, in which USCB identified 42 individuals who are providing economic and political support for the regime, for further investigation and action by the Department of Treasury. Copies of the Letter and the List were sent to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, National Security Adviser Thomas Donilon, original co-sponsors of the Tom Lantos Block Burmese JADE Act including Representatives Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Peter King (R-NY) and Donald Manzullo (R-IL), Senators Mitch Connell (R-KY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John McCain (R-AZ), and Richard Durbin (D-IL), and members of the media.

Click to view PDF of press release